ArticleA Fallen King
Centrally located, O'Connell street is the heart of the city of Dublin. Like any healthy heart, the street is vibrant, intense and…quite small (literally speaking, of course, as metaphorical hearts come in all sizes): its length is mere 500 meters. The O'Connell monument marks the southern entrance to the street, while its northern end is dominated by a monument devoted to Charles Stewart Parnell - yet another prominent politician who picked up the baton from O'Connell. The transition might have been purely symbolic as Parnell was 11 months old at the time of O'Connell's death, but Parnell's actual contribution to the cause of Irish liberation from British rule was equally groundbreaking.
Known as “The Liberator”, O'Connell didn't actually succeed to set Ireland free. One might argue that his biggest practical achievement was the Catholic Emancipation that positively affected a vast majority of Irish population by improving Catholics' daily lives and giving many of them a new sense of purpose. However, the Emancipation didn't prevent either the “Famine That Never Was”, or more bloodshed caused by a major uprising and the actual War for Independence almost a century later. So, all considering, O'Connell's most important breakthrough might have been his realization that, when it comes to political/social issues, a straight line is not always the shortest way towards one's objective - sometimes, contrary to conventional wisdom, a chasm can (and should!) get crossed in two, or even more small jumps! That was how he had brought about the Emancipation - and Parnell used a similar strategy 60 or so years later when zoning in on the next crucial objective, the Home Rule. He clearly understood that even though England would always feel obliged to oppose Ireland's full independence - and crush any armed resistance to the best of its ability - it might feel much less belligerent if more peaceful methods were employed, and somewhat less radical goal were pursued
Like earlier O'Connell, Parnell was elected to the Parliament. While in London for Parliamentary sessions, he would concentrate his efforts on making friends and forging alliances. One of his allies happened to be none other than William Gladstone, the leader of the Liberal Party and a future Prime Minister of England. Gladstone, among several other important politicians, was sympathetic towards Parnell's attempts to introduce Home Rule for Ireland. As for those who opposed the idea, Parnell resorted to his gift of gab to perfect a most annoying but completely legitimate Parliamentary strategy of filibustering. Upon having listened to his deliberations concerning, for instance, London sewers for 6-7 hours at a time, even his most inveterate opponents gradually began to feel that maybe, just maybe, some concession to Ireland wouldn't be the worst possible outcome, after all!
Parnell came close, really close. There was every indication that the Ireland Home Rule bill would be voted for within several months. Had it happened, and many a life - including those of non-combatants - would've been spared within the next decades but… A man-made disaster struck: there appeared rumours that Parnell had an affair with a divorced - not even married! - woman. When those rumours were confirmed, Irish society at large started to turn against the man who had for years been Ireland's biggest hope. He was being vilified and, eventually, ostracized. Tragically and ironically, at the same time, that witch hunt was instigated and led by the Catholic Church - the very people Parnell had been trying to help, did their utmost to bring him down. As a result, he lost his seat in the Parliament and his leadership in the Home Rule party. His dream shattered and his heart broken, Parnell died in two years. Ireland never received the Home Rule, and its path to Independence led to a bloody uprising and an even bloodier war…